Burn the Ships – Eliminate the Easy Out

We all like Plan “B” options that afford us escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership? As a leader, you must decide when and how to burn your own ships.

Burn-the-boats

What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option. To truly achieve the level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”

 

The obvious question becomes “what are my ships”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.

My three-year-old grandson has his favorite blanket he drags everywhere. It is his actual security blanket. We hope he abandons it by the time he’s ready for high school graduation, but maybe he won’t. I’m kidding of course, but how silly would that look? A handsome 18 year old walking the stage at graduation with this tattered, filthy, and well-worn blanket tucked under his arm.

What are they?

Ironically, plenty of people hang on to some form of security blanket or ‘ship’. Here are the big ones:

  • Your current job –  Yes, you may be hanging on to that lousy job because you need the security of it; the actual financial security. While those reasons may be logical and practical, are they holding you back from achieving something even greater?
  • Your field of employment – Does a career change make more sense? Are you drained by the thought of challenges in any other position within your industry?
  • Your comfort zone –  This is a big one. What would it look like to have to step outside of your comfort zone every day? Falling back into that zone is just like the ship you should probably burn.
  • Wrong relationships –  It’s sadly funny how many folks stay in bad relationships, business or otherwise. There’s a thought that you have time or money invested, so you hate to walk away, even though all indications are negative.

Are you willing to burn a ship? That means eliminating the escape hatch, safety valve, or parachute. As comforting as having such an escape may be, there are times when you have to get rid of the escape mechanism so that you proceed without fear, doubt, or skepticism.

Having the escape plan gives you the chance to make a half-hearted attempt to succeed, knowing all the while that at the first sign of trouble you can pull the ripcord and make the escape.

The Easy Way Out

Sadly, I’ve known too many couples who enter into marriage with a stated position that “if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce”. While I am not a legalist on the topic of divorce, I do believe that making that option too easy is a sure fire way to make it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So back to Captain Cortés and your work team. If you are the leader of your team, what ships have been docked nearby that will allow your whole team to escape if things start going wrong? Have you, as their leader found ways to make it clear that the ships have been burned?

Being the leader and giving the command to burn the ships may be the toughest command you give. I’m guessing Cortés slept with one eye open for quite some time after he first gave the order and watched the ships go up in flames. You too may suffer from the fear of the team’s reaction to the command, but it may be the best thing you could ever do for them.

Question: Share some ways you have eliminated the escape hatches where you work. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leaders: Want to Up-level Your Communication?

Managers face a constant struggle to improve communication within their work teams. Besides being able to accurately articulate any technical aspects about the work (every industry has its key phrases, terms, and buzz words), business leaders have to be ever-mindful of some very basic principles of effective communication.

communication

We usually think about communication as a two part/two person transaction. You speak, I speak, we hear and we act. This is the way most adults perceive the process of communication. When we need to talk to our teams, we usually just think about crafting a message as though it is being addressed to one person.

I submit to you that there are really four stages of communication. Being an effective communicator requires a laser focus to insure the parts are working to their maximum potential.

The four stages are:

1. What You Mean to Say –  Your communication as a manager must first be grounded in the thoughts you develop as facts and circumstances come together. When you process all of the information at hand, SOME kind of thought process should lead you to a decision. A message to the team begins with the thoughts that you will have. Sometimes the thoughts are significant and profound. At other times they are pretty simple. Your thoughts become the root of your message.

Be sure your mental checklist is functioning clearly before you start talking to the team. Be clear about what you mean to say.

2. What You Actually Say –  You have your thought, but then words must be applied to express that thought. Numbers 1 and 2 here are very closely tied together but are just different enough to cause a potential problem.

Let’s face it, most of us have had a moment where an idea pops into our head, but we cannot find the perfect words to explain the essence of that idea. Our words fail us. This phase is especially troublesome when you have to communicate ‘on the fly’, meaning impromptu communication.

When you have a chance to write a speech, you get more time to process your thoughts and formulate the words. Great speechwriters make careers doing this for politicians and celebrities. However, managers on the front line seldom have that luxury. As events unfold at work, you are required to respond quickly. Your words can easily become muddled.

If words fail you, it is possible you will be sending a message that is different from your original intent. Also, words that have double meanings can confuse the message. Tone and positioning of words can impact the meaning. There are numerous ways that the words you DO choose to express may send a message different from what you intend.

3. What the Listener Hears –  When we think of translating a message from one language to another, we often hear about ‘something getting lost in translation’. Unfortunately, that can happen with communication within the same language. You can take a perfectly structured thought (Item #1) that is represented well by the words you choose (Item #2) but still have trouble getting your message across.

Clearly, the responsibility to correctly hear a message falls on your listener. Any form of translation that changes the message corrupts it. The risk at this stage is that word meanings can vary from person to person. As the manager, if you make a statement “I am concerned about this _______”, some may hear the message as saying “I am mad, but just not telling you”.

4. What the Listener Now Feels –  Whether the translation being heard is correct or not, there is still one last hurdle to overcome. How does your message make the listener feel? The content of what you meant versus the listener’s conclusion after processing your words may spawn a surprising reaction.

For some, there are trigger words that spark bad feelings. For others, there are words that inspire and motivate. The listener’s initial feeling about the message will have a direct impact on the success of the communication. If the effort ends poorly, the manager must essentially start over with this entire 4 stage process.

We’ve discussed the four stages of communication. What is a manager to do?

In situations where people have solid, effective relationships, there is a history that can smooth any of the rough edges stemming from a breakdown of any of these four parts. When people have worked together for some time, they can (and should) develop a sense of understanding that helps to bridge the communication gap. Keywords and phrases take on meanings of their own and become the go-to way to express a topic.

Yet, when someone new joins the team, communication bridges are not yet available, so the manager’s message needs to stick to the basics until the history can be accumulated. The latter is also true when new topics are introduced to the team.

As the Manager, it is your responsibility to watch for breaks in all four of these stages. Better communication can be achieved by effectively using all elements. Find ways to let your team know that for their benefit you want to be a good communicator. Let them provide feedback, too. Iron out phrases and words that miss the mark or generate the wrong conclusions.

Question: In what ways have you experienced communication problems with your work team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

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Listen to the latest edition of BizTalk Radio “Price of Business” with host Kevin Price.

On this show, I talked about “the entrepreneur’s conundrum”. How to give up control so your business can grow.

Listen Now

 

Date: February 14, 2018
Appearance: BizTalk Radio – “Price of Business” 2-14-2018
Outlet: Biz Talk Radio "Price of Business Show" with Kevin Price
Location: Houston, TX
Format: Radio

Major on the Minors, Minor on the Majors

Facing life each day, we all make this mistake. We spend time on the wrong stuff. Priorities get mixed up. Big things get forgotten or set aside while little things get all our attention; both emotional and physical. We major on the minors and minor on the majors.

overwhelmed

Why do we do this? Mainly because the little things seem easier to knock out. We fool ourselves into thinking “I’ll spend a minute finishing this or that, then I’ll get to the big thing.” Pretty soon the day is gone and none of the big stuff gets accomplished.

So we push it off for tomorrow. We wake up and do it all over again. The next thing we know, a major deadline has gotten missed.

How to fix it

I’m reminded by Chuck Swindoll, longtime spiritual guide and virtual mentor of mine, there are three ways to avoid majoring on the minors. We have to review, reject, and renew. Let’s unpack the meaning.

Review

We must be able to review what we are choosing to do. A review has to happen frequently. As you set priorities, the only way to keep them in sight is to review where you are.

Our brains have an amazing capacity to do this in our subconsciousness. Have you ever been driving and suddenly realized you’ve spent the last 10 minutes and have no sense of driving at all? Why? Because we set our minds on a destination with a proven way to get there. Our brains take over and help us maneuver the vehicle without thinking about it.

While I don’t recommend driving this way routinely, you can apply the same truth to achieving goals. If you set your mind to them daily, your brain will tune in to a frequency that gets you there.

I am a big fan of the decision box made famous by Dwight Eisenhower  (see below). It has four quarters with a scale for urgent versus important. Put your to-do items into one of the quadrants. Then you’ll get a better picture of what you need to be doing.

Reject

Reject the clutter. Keep your head clear of unnecessary noise and distraction. Reject the temptations to do the piddly little things before more meaningful goals have been accomplished.

I love the day timer apps and books that allow you to set the right goals as priorities, then help you keep them in proper focus.

Further, if you have to, unplug for brief periods throughout the day. Turn off email, Facebook, and other electronics that have a temptation to draw you in. Intentionally set up some productivity windows for full focus on the big rocks.

Renew

Keep your mind fresh. Take breaks. Get up and walk around to clear your head and give you the power to reconnect.

Watch out though for finding something else to do. Avoid the urge to multi-task.

Find new and inspiring articles, books, and other content to consume rather than junk mail. Keep yourself stocked with fresh ideas and new ways to look at things.

Ever thought about hiring a coach to help you become a better you?

Ever thought about hiring a coach to help you become a better you?

Summary

Using these three key ways to set your sights on the right priorities will help you major on the majors. Cheers to better productivity!

Question: What are you doing to become more productive? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Management is Not for Everyone

What’s the big deal with becoming a Manager? Why do some try to do that? And why do companies promote people who end up being terrible managers and lousy bosses? More importantly, if you are one of the people being put into management, what can you do to make it a success?

management

Being in management is associated with a position, title, and certain responsibilities and compensation. People naturally strive to make those career advancements, but it’s not for everyone. Sadly, few consider becoming a real leader in the role. You can truly manage something without ever becoming a good leader.

You can press the buttons, push the paper, and make people do their work (fear, power, and oppression/intimidation) but that doesn’t inspire productivity and loyalty. When a work team is run this way, there is low morale and high turnover. Plus you get tagged “bad boss”.

Leaders inspire their team. They create trust and loyalty. They naturally motivate people, turnover is low.

I don’t advocate anything about management practice alone. I feel (and experience has proven) that someone who focuses only on management won’t be around long.

Leaders make the difference

When you take on a management role, you should begin thinking about what it takes to become a leader. If you’ve never studied leadership, here are five ways you can get a jump start on rising above the crowd.

Read –  Yes, read about successful leaders. Ask around to get references for some great books. John Maxwell is a world renown expert on leadership theory, practice, and teaching. He’s written some 25 books, sold 16 million copies, and presented leadership conferences in over 30 countries. He’d be a good start.

Find a Model –  A role model that is. Identify someone at your work or in your community who stands out as a role model for good leadership. Just ask them if they will be willing to spend some time sharing ideas and helping you build some leadership muscle.

Preferably you find a mentor who will agree to a longer term relationship; someone with whom you can explore leadership ideas.

Hire a Coach –  OK, yes, I am a coach, so I think hiring one is smart. Forget me for a minute. Think about where coaching is used elsewhere. Coaches have been around for a long time in all things sports. Why? Players need help developing their “better self” to get stronger, more flexible, more agile, and better informed about the sport.

We think of sports coaches as a natural fit. So why not career coaches or executive coaches to help build leadership muscle. More and more, professionals in all walks are turning to coaching to help build better leadership skills.

Join a Mastermind –  Iron sharpens iron. Find or create a group of like-minded managers who also want to grow. Share ideas and experiences in a highly confidential and trustworthy way. Help each other grow.

Practice –  Back to the sports connection. You won’t get better without practice. Take the information you receive and put it into practice. See what works and what doesn’t work. By using the principles you learn, you exercise that leadership muscle, helping it grow.

With practice, you will find more confidence in your ability to lead the team. Your decisions will come easier and be more reliable.

Don’t get stuck or left behind

Moving into management can be a great opportunity. Just don’t get bogged down in the weeds. Get the job going, but then focus on developing as a leader. Take the simple but important steps to move forward each day. Find ways to grow your awareness of the big difference between just being a manager or becoming a leader.

The world needs leaders everywhere; at work, at home, and in the community. By growing your own capacity to lead, you can make a difference in this world, right where you are.

Question: If you are a manager, what are you doing to make a better difference? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Measuring the Milestones of Life

Have you ever stopped to think what the milestones in your life are telling you? Or do you even keep track of those moments? We all have decisions, outcomes, and experiences that shape and mold the person we become. Some call these defining moments.

Taking a look at the list of the key moments can be very helpful when trying to make new decisions about who we are and where we’re going.

milestones

I confess, this week one of those milestone moments happens for me. It’s my birthday and it’s a big one. I won’t bore you with the details. And, no, this is not a weak plug for attention, but instead an opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

Birthdays can be examples of some classic milestone moments; turning 16 to get a drivers license or 21 to be “legal” for drinking can be big deals. But then we start counting birthdays in fives; 25, 30, 35, etc.

A friend once shuddered at his 35th  birthday. In his mind, thirty-five was a serious pivot point in his life. Somehow everything was going to be downhill. Ironically, my father-in-law always said “no one pays attention to you until you turn 40”, but that’s another story.

There are many other examples of life-changing moments we experience that become milestones for us. Graduating from school, getting married, having children, getting a divorce, being transferred, making a big move, changing jobs, changing careers… all of these serve to set markers in our life from which we can see a picture start to form. There are many more.

Decisions are critical influencers of when, where and how some of these markers get created. Bad decisions send us down paths that either make us learn something, or keep us from learning. Better decisions build experience and wisdom. The older you get, the more you will see a picture unfolding. You see a shape and a pattern come to life.

The Challenge

If you are reading this and feeling stuck where you are, take a moment to recount the milestones in your own life. You might even take a notepad and draw the timeline of your life, placing markers at the various key moments. It doesn’t matter whether they are positive or negative, just draw the map.

From this drawing see what picture you find. Are there common themes that jump out? Is there a hobby or skill that keeps coming up? Is there a body of work that inspires you more than the others?

If you’ve never done an exercise like this, you might just find a new you in there somewhere.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs 

Question: What are your milestones telling you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

We Have Video

It’s a great pleasure to announce we have opened our video channel here too. If you would like to browse some of the great interviews and topics in store on my YouTube channel, just click over to the Video Channel page here. Here I will be sharing ways you too can grow your influence as a Leader or business owner.

Take a look, share with your friends. Leave us a comment here or on YouTube.

Also, this is another great way to get your ideas for questions you’d like covered in my series.

Stay tuned here too. We have lots more scheduled for release this year.

Here’s a sample of some of the videos for you.

Leaders: Having Haters Hate

The life of a manager/business leader certainly has its benefits, but there are downsides to being a leader too. Not long ago, I received an email from someone who had served on a large project with me. Their recall of my role was, let’s say, less than flattering.

haters

The project was a large one. We started with a team of 457 professionals and grew it to over 700 before the project ended. I was the overall lead executive running the show. The effort called for organizing 9 different work teams, handling 9 distinctly different focus topics and work plans. In the middle of it was a just-in-time software development project that would have been a big enough challenge all by itself.

The work was spread coast to coast in 4 large work centers. To say we had occasional personnel problems would be an understatement.

My duty to lead and manage this group was a really big challenge. Thankfully, I had a close, but small support staff with me. My deputy, second in command, became my traveling problem solver.

Back to the Email Message

The person who wrote me the email said he did recall my presence on the project, but called me one of those “stiffs” who sat in the glass offices and didn’t come out much. While some may say I fell short in a few areas during that project, getting out and around to the work teams was not one of the failings. In fact, my support crew saw me early in the morning then seldom saw me until late in the day.

Why? Because I was moving from team to team, meeting to meeting, or training to training, dealing directly with the teams and their unit managers. I was as much cheerleader for the vision of the project as I was operator and executive.

Frankly, I am proud of the project and the team we recruited. I met some amazing professionals who worked tirelessly to accomplish our goals, all under a tight time clock of deadlines and deliverables. The fact that some who were present either didn’t see it this way or have their own different opinions are just reality.

I am a Realist

If I’ve learned much of anything in my years as an executive, I’ve learned you have to be real about people’s expectations. You will never win them all. I am convinced that if you recruit three people to be on the same team, you will find one negative Ned or Nelly. Heck, this can even happen just hiring two people.

The Challenge as a Leader is Threefold

First, you must do the best you can at recruiting and selecting people for your team. For a small business, this can be the most difficult challenge an owner undertakes. It is certainly true in big business too. You will not win them all here either, but you can do things to make better selections through detailed screening, background checks, and by giving practical tests to applicants.

If you have specific skills you need to be performed, you have to test for those skills. The “soft stuff” like customer service can be a bigger challenge. After all, people have learned how to ace interviews and smile pretty. Yet, once they land, you can only wait to see whether they fit correctly into your roles and execute on the duties?

Next, you must equip them to win. As a leader, you must impart the best information you can provide to help them understand the job, the requirements, and winning factors that work for the specific need you have them fill. That is on you as the leader to provide this understanding.

As soon as an employee demonstrates an unwillingness to embrace the framework and perform against the standards, you need to begin remediation actions. Whether that is retraining, reassignment, relocation, or removal, the manager must move swiftly to eliminate the lingering impact of an underachiever.

Lastly, there will still be those who hate your leadership. Regardless how much you work to win the hearts and minds of your team, you will have some who don’t get it. No leader anywhere should expect of themselves the ability to win everyone over. There are just enough personalities in this world to occasionally find the ones who don’t mesh well.

I like to say it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. When you identify the difference, you have to accept it for what it is.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

On occasion when you get some really negative feedback from a former employee (or current one), take it with a  grain of salt. They pay you the proverbial big bucks to have the thick skin to take it.

If there is substance in the feedback, embrace it. Use the input to improve your leadership skills. However, when you know you gave it your best shot, proven by the feedback from those who mattered at the time (your client, your boss, and the team around you) forget about the Hater. Haters will hate. That’s what they do.

Be bold. Be strong. Don’t let one loud voice drown out your ability to make a difference for everyone else.

Oh, by the way. After over 30 years managing and directing thousands and a current day social media following of over 200,000, I’ve gotten two such letters in four years.

“Not bad. Not bad at all.” (President Whitmore –  Independence Day)

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Leaders Modeling the Way

Three Steps to Better Team Performance

Any entrepreneur, business owner, or executive who wonders why the team is not operating as you expect should take a couple of critical steps. Get out from behind the desk and take the steps to walk to the mirror.

modeling the way

Take a long, hard look. Are YOU modeling the way for others to follow? Your actions and behaviors set the tone and pace for those around you. You cannot operate with a mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yet too many people in a position of power operate exactly that way.

What are some areas where modeling the right behaviors makes a difference? Here are three that are vital.

Be the Vision

Well respected leaders are known for their ability to communicate a vision. This is the ideal end-stage outcome. It’s the “begin with the end in mind” that Covey teaches.

Corporations are famous for setting Vision Statements and Mission Statements. However, the statements only work when they are shared throughout the workforce. Whether you run a 5 person team or an organization of 500, the way you as the leader share the vision is vital to the ultimate success.

You must understand and embrace the vision. You cannot be undermining it from your office. If you own the business, you darn well better construct and live the vision in a way that others can explain it just as thoroughly as you do.

I made the mistake in one of my first companies by not fully explaining the vision. We had several service offerings that made common sense but didn’t clearly connect to a greater purpose without some explaining. I was guilty of taking too much for granted across my work team.

Our website was carefully designed and written to pitch our vision to the market, but my own team couldn’t recite what we were doing very well. More importantly, the passion with which I believed we could change the market was not shared by my crew. It took several months for me to realize what was missing.

I called a meeting and shared the overall vision to set the tone for future effort. I even apologized for not letting them know this critical element of our being. Once I revealed the vision, several more seasoned professionals on the team got excited. They asked very good questions and the discussion opened up. It was a milestone event in the life of my little company.

Your actions on a day to day basis must enforce the vision.

Enable Others to Act

The people who report to you need the latitude to do their jobs. You can model confidence in their ability by letting them have free range in which to operate. Yes, you might have policies and procedures, but there is always room for initiative to work.

Early in my career, I decided to embrace a principle that I should work to hire capable people, then get out of their way. Micromanaging is stifling to most employees.

As the leader, you need to model the proper use of delegation of authority. Delegation is not all that hard to comprehend. Think of it this way. You give permission to act and protection when they fall. It’s very similar to raising children. You want them to grow by experiencing for themselves the actions, reactions, consequence, and success.

As you do this, you must be consistent in your administration of the effort. You cannot pick one person over another to get more latitude. Yes, I appreciate the argument for ‘not all employees are created equal’ in terms of skills and abilities. However, every employee should have a range with which they can operate based on the skills they demonstrate.

If the employee is a problem, then apply remedial training or deal with the case and replace the person. That is the hard side of being an effective leader. I’ll save more on this issue for another article.

Encourage the Heart

The human side of leadership is exactly what differentiates a leader from a mere manager. You manage process, but lead people. People respond more when all of their being is engaged.

I like to teach about harnessing the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. At work, we often think in terms of the mental side of this equation. You hire talent and experience, right? But have you ever tried to hire passion?

There is a recruiter friend of mine who uses this tagline:

Hire for Passion. Skills are cheap. Passion is hard to come by.

How do you measure the passion a person may bring to the work you need them to do? Ask better questions. Decide for yourself why this work is meaningful. Find ways to engage the hearts of those around you.

This notion of encouraging and engaging the heart of your people has been used for centuries in military conquests across the globe. Armies moving across foreign lands try to engage and endear the population so that the effort is not met with resistance. But when resistance comes as the French and Polish people did during WWII, the advancing effort of the German army was much more difficult to achieve.

Thankfully our places of work should never become war zones. But the principles apply. Win the hearts of your people and you will have far greater success achieving your goals.

The leader who can model a true and genuine appreciation for the hearts of their people will accomplish much more.

Question: Let us know some ways you model the right behaviors to lead your teams. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

10 Things You May Not Know About Procrastination

Yes, PROCRASTINATION. We all deal with it at some time or another. Have you noticed that the degree of procrastination often is directly proportional to the size of the task? Well, it is for me.

procrastination

So there I was, inside of 12 hours before press deadline. Normally, I am well ahead of these articles by now. (You see, I really do feel an obligation to deliver something of value in return for your time reading my posts.)

On the way home from church, I mentioned to my wife that I was behind the deadline. She said, “I have an idea for a topic.”

To this, I responded, “Great, let me hear it.”

Procrastination!” was her reply.

Ouch, really? “Is that what you think I have done here?” was my manly retort (said in a tender, loving way of course).

She smartly said, “No, but it’s a good topic you don’t write enough about.”

OK, deal! I agree. Inspiration!

Here’s the Truth

Psychology Today reports:

“Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort.”

In an article written by Hara Estroff Marano [first published in August 23003, later reviewed November 20, 2015]  she writes:

“There are many ways to avoid success in life, but the most sure-fire just might be procrastination. Procrastinators sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their own path. They actually choose paths that hurt their performance.

Why would people do that? I talked to two of the world’s leading experts on procrastination: Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Neither one is a procrastinator, and both answered my many questions immediately. [Here are the answers]”

  1. Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. And it cuts across all domains of their life. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.18496652_s
  2. It’s not trivial, although as a culture we don’t take it seriously as a problem. It represents a profound problem of self-regulation. And there may be more of it in the U.S. than in other countries because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  3. Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  4. Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned in the family milieu, but not directly. It is one response to an authoritarian parenting style. Having a harsh, controlling father keeps children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from internalizing their own intentions and then learning to act on them. Procrastination can even be a form of rebellion, one of the few forms available under such circumstances. What’s more, under those household conditions, procrastinators turn more to friends than to parents for support, and their friends may reinforce procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of their excuses.
  5. Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink. Procrastinators drink more than they intend to—a manifestation of generalized problems in self-regulation. That is over and above the effect of avoidant coping styles that underlie procrastination and lead to disengagement via substance abuse.
  6. Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact, they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately, they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  7. Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
  8. There’s more than one flavor of procrastination. People procrastinate for different reasons. Dr. Ferrari identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
    • arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait until the last minute for the euphoric rush.
    • avoiders, who may be avoiding the fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
    • decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
  9. There are big costs to procrastination. Health is one. Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. And they had insomnia. In addition, procrastination has a high cost to others as well as oneself; it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who become resentful. Procrastination destroys teamwork in the workplace and private relationships.
  10. Procrastinators can change their behavior—but doing so consumes a lot of psychic energy. And it doesn’t necessarily mean one feels transformed internally. It can be done with highly structured cognitive behavioral therapy.

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Here’s the Fix

For many of us dealing with the occasional bout of procrastination, we just need to turn up the self-discipline. For me, I need to do these things:

1. Eliminate distractions; refocus. I need to remind myself of the significance of the task at hand.

2. Reduce the rationalization that happens when I make excuses for letting something slip. The better answer is ‘NO, there is no excuse. Get busy!’ As for this article, my rationalization sounded something like ‘Gee, it’s the holidays, there are bowl games and family…’. Nope, all bad excuses.

3. Ask for accountability. I did this today by sharing with my wife that I was off schedule. Getting her input got me jump started toward the goal.

For anyone who has committed to a new plan for 2016, procrastination may be the very first obstacle you face. Take these ideas to heart. Be ready to battle this enemy right from the start.

Think about these quotes:

Question: What do you do to fight procrastination? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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